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Claude Conyers

American ballet dancers, teachers, choreographers, and company directors. Three of the four Christensen brothers made their careers in dance. Members of a Danish Mormon family that had settled in America, they were taught folk and social dancing by their father and grandfather and trained in ballet by various teachers. All three were instrumental in establishing and popularizing ballet in the western United States.

Willam Farr Christensen (b Brigham City, UT, Aug 27, 1902; d Salt Lake City, Oct 14, 2001) was the eldest of the brothers. After touring the vaudeville circuit, he opened a ballet school in 1932 in Portland, Oregon, from which sprang the Portland Ballet. In 1937 he joined the San Francisco Opera Ballet, where, as ballet-master, he staged the first full-length American productions of Coppélia (1939), Swan Lake (1940), and The Nutcracker (1944). Returning to Utah in 1951, he taught ballet at the state university and founded a performing group that eventually became known as Ballet West....

Article

Irene Alm

(b Milan, ?1755; d after 1838). Italian dancer, choreographer and composer. A pupil of Noverre, he danced at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna in 1775 and presented his first choreography at the Teatro S Agostino in Genoa during Carnival 1776. Most of Clerico’s works were created for the opera houses in Venice, where he worked during the 1780s at S Samuele, S Benedetto and S Moisè, and later in his career at the Fenice, and in Milan, where from 1790 he graced the stage of La Scala for nearly 40 years. He also created ballets for opera houses in Turin, Rome, Brescia, Padua, Bologna, Parma and Florence, and returned to work in Vienna, 1798–1800. Clerico often danced in his own ballets with his brother Gaetano and sister Rosa (who in 1786 married the choreographer and dancer Lorenzo Panzieri). Their exceptional abilities as dancers, according to Ritorni, contributed in part to the success of Clerico’s ballets. Not only was he a renowned choreographer and dancer, but he also composed the music for many of his ballets. He was considered the heir to Angiolini, and an important precursor of Viganò. His enormous output totals nearly 80 ballets, many of which were restaged throughout Italy and in foreign theatres....

Article

Claude Conyers

[John Ewing Richter]

(b New Brunswick, NJ, April 27, 1911; d Los Angeles, Feb 17, 1974). American dancer and choreographer. He left home as a teenager to pursue dance training at the Denishawn studio in New York City. Taking his stage name from his stepfather, he appeared with several modern dance troupes before forming an exhibition dance act and beginning a commercial career dancing in nightclubs. During the late 1930s he danced with a partner and sometimes a small group of backup dancers in supper clubs, hotel ballrooms, and music theaters around the country. His performances, noted for their dramatic flair, brought him profitable jobs on Broadway and eventually led him, in 1941, to Hollywood. There, as dance director at Columbia Pictures, he created memorable ensemble numbers showcasing the talents of such stars as Mitzi Gaynor, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Ann Miller, and Marilyn Monroe. His highly individual dance style emphasized the sensuality of his stars and usually caused trouble with the film censors. More than one of his dance numbers ended up on the cutting-room floor. He created dances for more than thirty films as well as numerous hit shows on Broadway, including ...

Article

Susan Au

[Mercier Philip ]

(b Centralia, WA, Apr 16, 1919; d New York, NY, July 26, 2009). American dancer, choreographer, and dance company director. He began to study dance in his native Centralia. While attending the Cornish Institute in Seattle, he met John Cage, with whom he formed a lasting and productive partnership. He also studied modern dance at Mills College and the Bennington School of the Dance, and ballet at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York. He performed as a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company (1939–45), where he originated the role of the Revivalist in Graham’s Appalachian Spring (1944; Aaron Copland). He first began to choreograph in 1942, and in 1944 presented his first solo concert in New York, dancing to music by Cage. In 1953 he formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with Cage as music director. The two men shared an innovative mindset, which defined the company’s aesthetic mission. The Cunningham school, which trained dancers for the company, was established in ...

Article

Mary Jo Lodge

(b Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 8, 1939). American director, choreographer, and performer. Trained in classical ballet at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Daniele became a professional dancer at age 14. She performed for several years with ballet companies in South America and Europe and came to the United States in 1964 to learn American-style jazz dance. She made her Broadway debut in the musical What Makes Sammy Run? that same year, which led to several more Broadway roles. She first assisted prominent Broadway director/choreographers Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse before taking the helm herself on numerous shows, first as a choreographer and then adding the director’s role. She choreographed major Broadway productions as The Pirates of Penzance (1981), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985), and Ragtime (1998), and three Woody Allen films, including Mighty Aphrodite (1995). Daniele’s first Broadway production as a director/choreographer was ...

Article

(b Montpellier, Aug 19, 1742; d Tours, Feb 14, 1806). French dancer, teacher and choreographer . He danced in Lyons in 1757 under Noverre, who described his pupil as a joyful and dramatically expressive dancer. Within two years Dauberval was ballet-master for the Turin opera house. In 1761 he made a successful début at the Paris Opéra in Rameau’s Zaïs. He performed under Noverre in Stuttgart, 1762–4, appeared at the Haymarket, London, in 1764 and returned in 1766 to the Opéra, where he was appointed assistant ballet-master in 1770. He danced in many revivals of works by Lully and Rameau, and in the premières of Dauvergne’s Polyxène (1763), Louis Granier’s Théonis (1767), P.-M. Berton and J. B. de La Borde’s Adèle de Ponthieu (1772) and Gossec’s Sabinus (2nd version; 1774). From 1781 to 1783 he shared the title of ballet-master with Maximilien Gardel; he was ousted as a result of political intrigues....

Article

Susan Au

(George)

(b New York, Sept 18, 1905; d New York, Oct 7, 1993). American dancer, choreographer, dance company director, and writer. Born into a family of theater professionals (her uncle was film director Cecil B. De Mille), she earned a BA in English from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her ballet training began in Los Angeles and continued in England, where she danced in the companies of Marie Rambert and Antony Tudor. She toured the United States and Europe as a solo performer, and in 1939 became a charter member of Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre). Her best-known ballet, Rodeo (1942; Aaron Copland), was choreographed for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The story of a cowgirl who learns the uses of femininity, it is still performed today. Her choreography for the musical Oklahoma! (1943; Rodgers and Hammerstein) brought her even wider fame, and its use of dance as a means of advancing the plot was hailed as a milestone in theater history. ...

Article

Rainer E. Lotz

(Winston )

(b Philadelphia, May 14, 1889; d New York, May 19, 1939). American dancer, choreographer, and impresario. He went to Ireland in 1903 as a member of a juvenile “piccaninny” group, then toured Europe with Belle Davis (1903–8); his dancing during this period may be seen in the film Die schöne Davis mit ihren drei Negern (1906). Thereafter he worked as an eccentric solo act, and from 1910 into the 1930s was featured as a step dancer in revues in London, Paris, and Berlin; he also toured South America in 1923. In 1925 he starred in La revue nègre, with music provided by Claude Hopkins’s Charleston Jazz Band. He then organized his own revue, Black People (1926), which toured Europe and North Africa with members of Sam Wooding’s band. He organized further revues in Berlin (1926) and New York (1927...

Article

Claude Conyers

(Mary)

(b Chicago, IL, June 22, 1912; d New York, May 21, 2006). American dancer, choreographer, author, teacher, and company director. Having studied ballet and modern dance with Chicago teachers and founded her own performing group, she became interested in ethnic dance while studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. Upon winning a research grant, she went on a field trip to the West Indies, where she documented dances of various locales. She submitted a thesis on the dances of Haiti in partial fulfillment of a master’s degree at the university but was then faced with a choice between academia and show business. She chose the latter. Tropics (1937), Primitive Rhythms (1938), and Le Jazz “Hot” (1939) were early versions of the many revues she would create with the music, song, and dance of Afro-Caribbean and African American people. She and her company came to national attention when they appeared in the Broadway musical ...

Article

Kate Van Winkle Keller

(b Paris, France, c1762; d Washington, DC, April 11, 1841). American dancing master, choreographer, and composer of dance music. He was born into a family named Landrin with close connections to the court of Louis XVI. He was a pupil of Maximilien Gardel (1741–87), and for six years he was dancing master for the Paris Opéra. He left Paris three days after the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and arrived in Philadelphia in mid-1790. He changed his name, placing advertisements for his dancing schools as Mr. De Duport. Chiefly a choreographer and teacher of social dancing, Duport blended amateur and professional dancing with theatrical standards of content and performance. He wrote music and created hornpipes and other solo dances for his students, as well as duos such as figured minuets, allemandes, and waltzes; group dances, including complex French contredanses, cotillions, and English country dances; and ballets for his classes to perform at recitals. A music copybook in Duport’s hand traces his creative career from ...